Comparing Traditional and Modern Warehouse Management Systems
Large ‘brick on a stick’ mobile terminals with physical buttons
Familiar smartphone or tablet devices running Android or iOS
Long and complex implementations, formal training sessions run by the vendor
Low risk and rapid to adopt, uses familiar technology which improves user experiences with user-driven training and configuration
Any changes to the standard process require custom coding that makes upgrades expensive and difficult
Features and workflows can be adapted using scripts, configurations, and workflow management tools by super users who are semi-technical and do not require developers
Limited by the hardware and network locally available, once set is generally fixed
Totally elastic solution for any size implementation; can flex along with seasonality requirements throughout the year as needed
Traditional feature set: receive, put-away, letdown, count, and pick
Industry or process specific features that are configurable by the role of the user
Installed on premise in local servers, supported by company MIS
Often cloud-based but can be deployed locally, support can be local or remote
Warehouse to ERP integration is developed with the implementation project and remains fixed
Using modern integration technologies, the system is open and has published common APIs that can be connected to a wide range of solutions and appliances
The Key: Meeting Customer Needs in an Innovative, Cost-Effective Way
As you consider the value of a new warehouse management system, an important thing to keep in mind is how the technology will allow you to be innovative. This is essential as you continuously look to support your customers in new and better ways. A strong WMS supports innovative and creative problem solving that helps you maintain your competitive edge.
What to Look for in a ‘Modern’ Warehouse Management System
A modern warehouse management system will support your business as it grows and changes into the future. You’ll want to find a system that offers low overall risk. This means you can get up and running quickly on the system via a rapid implementation model and can make software changes over time to meet new challenges. This adaptability is a critical factor in molding the system to your specific customer or industry requirements where appropriate.
Finding a system that is ‘future proof’ is also important. Not only do you need core functionality to be in place today, but you also need to be able to stay on the upgrade path down the road as new enhancements are released and you want your warehouse management system to keep pace.
Ways a Modern Warehouse Management System Helps Reduce Costs
It Automates Manual Processes
For those running manual processes or even paper pick lists, think about all the labor-intensive tasks that happen every day in your warehouse. From receiving and put-away to inventory management to picking, packing, and shipping, there are many ways you can leverage automation to forego routine processes and save costs. Especially if you have older technology in place, you’re likely giving up the chance to automate tasks and improve overall throughput.
Find every opportunity you can to automate repeatable and time-intensive activities, especially those prone to error. Maybe an electronic pick list is a good place to start. Your WMS vendor or consultant can work with you to assess your operations and determine where the low-hanging fruit resides when it comes to what to automate first. Your associates will also be a good source of ideas. Don’t forget to evaluate material handling equipment (MHE) that can integrate with your warehouse management system to speed operations. Conveyors, pick-to-light systems, automatic guided vehicles (AGVs), automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), and more not only help your associates complete assignments faster, but they can also improve safety and take the physical burden out of some of the steps.
It Recognizes What Today’s Labor Force Needs
Finding and retaining a solid workforce is a growing challenge for many companies. Today’s workers are used to the simplicity of consumer technologies and expect to have similar capabilities when they step into the warehouse. Because of this, the right warehouse management system will make a world of difference to your ability to hire, train, and retain staff. An intuitive WMS plays a large role in how your team goes about completing assignments every hour of the day. If your system is easier to work with and simplifies the process of completing tasks accurately, employee satisfaction and morale will improve. Likewise, a well-thought-out solution speeds training time for new employees.
If you’re able to introduce automation as mentioned above, you may find you can carry out the same tasks with fewer associates. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to let workers go. It’s feasible to offer additional training to some associates and redeploy them to other areas where performance may be an issue. You can also use newfound employee bandwidth to implement offerings such as personalized, value-added services that delight your customers.
It Optimizes Inventory Management
Distributors must achieve a fine balance between not having the right amount of product on hand, tying up cash, and wasting money on excess inventory that gathers dust but is readily available for unexpected last-minute shipments. Having too much inventory, not having enough, or lacking the right kind of inventory all create financial stress and customer service challenges for your organization.
The first requirement to improving inventory management and lowering your holding costs is having visibility into what’s on the shelves and the rate at which it is depleted and replenished. This is possible with a warehouse management system in concert with an inventory management system that tracks the ins and outs as well as prompts cycle counting and reconciliation. The ability to forecast demand is also an important step as you work to implement an optimum level of inventory to carry, improving your ability to lower inventory holding costs over time. Finally, determine if you have an issue with security such as product theft. If so, take steps to curtail it via foolproof picking processes, security cameras, and an anonymous employee tip line.
It Enables You to Implement Best Practices
Although supply chain experts have been developing best practices for decades, recent changes in distribution models, technology, and customer expectations have led to new insights into the best ways to run your distribution operations. Make sure you do your homework to learn the latest best practices regarding facility layout, the best ways to leverage technology, and how to manage your workforce in pursuit of meeting customer requirements and keeping costs in check. When researching your warehouse management system options, select a vendor who can demonstrate a deep understanding of supply chain best practices to ensure they can help you introduce the efficiency you need to your distribution operation.
It Helps You Measure Your Performance
Best-in-class distribution operations of any size rely on accurate metrics and analytics for informed decision-making. From labor productivity to fulfillment speed and shipping accuracy, intuitive WMS dashboards will help you get a handle on which areas aren’t running efficiently, where cost spikes point to underlying issues, and more. What you seek is information that can help you take action, enabling ongoing improvement and cost reduction across many areas. This may include dropping a product line that isn’t performing well, reallocating staff to address performance issues, or identifying expiring products and waste.
How Leading Organizations Use Modern Warehouse Management Systems to Succeed
Aetrex is widely recognized as the global leader in comfort and wellness footwear. Originally known for the landmark development of arch supports and medically oriented footcare products, Aetrex has come a long way to become one of the leading footwear companies in the U.S. and around the world. To meet its goal of becoming a major brand in footwear, fast-growing Aetrex needed a strong supply chain infrastructure to support its go-to-market strategy and provide its management and customer service staff with the right information to better serve clients and distributors.
Aetrex selected Tecsys’ warehouse, distribution management, and EDI applications to support its goals. The company chose Tecsys due to its unparalleled customer care and responsiveness as well as the strength of its applications. Since implementing Tecsys’ solutions, Aetrex has grown at an aggressive rate and achieved its strategic sales and customer service goals. The results speak for themselves: Aetrex has increased volume by 80% without additional staff, increased inventory accuracy by 70%, and reduced cost by 24%.
“At the end of the day, with Tecsys we are now miles ahead in our execution abilities and management of our supply chain.”
– Jeffrey Pike, Vice President of Operations
LifeScience Logistics (LSL) is a third-party logistics services provider in the healthcare industry. The company provides a full range of standard and specialized logistics services scalable to the changing needs of its customers. LSL faced the challenge of providing domestic and global healthcare manufacturers with unique, regulatory-compliant distribution facilities and processes. They chose Tecsys’ healthcare SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) model, and the results have been impressive.
LSL has achieved substantial automation with Tecsys’ supply chain management solutions, such as scalable perpetual inventory, significant improvement in labor management with system-directed put-away and picking, as well as unprecedented real-time visibility. The company has also realized the following benefits: 99% fill rates and 99.97% inventory accuracy, with the right products delivered at the right price without sacrificing quality.
“We have a reliable IT infrastructure that can be tapped anytime, from anywhere, securely…it is like “Googling” into a supply chain network of applications, giving us and our customers peace of mind and visibility of what is happening…”
– Richard Beeny, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer
Regardless of their size, all businesses face an array of challenges when it comes to meeting customer expectations today. As you strive to address demands for faster response times at lower costs while maintaining a skilled workforce, having the right WMS in place is essential to fending off disruptions and strengthening your competitive posture. As you’ve learned, a modern, feature-rich warehouse management system paired with rapid deployment capabilities and adaptability can fast-track your operations and help you meet current and future challenges.
You can get a top-tier warehouse management system running quickly, start gaining value, and still have the option of expanding to more capabilities as your needs grow. It is now feasible for operations decision-makers to leverage best-in-class WMS technology while attaining profitability and keeping an eye on the challenges—and opportunities—the future may bring.